Posted by: Jo | May 3, 2018

Fanning Our Gifts Into Flames

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…”

(2 Timothy 1: 6)

FanFlames01Both my husband and I grew up in homes that had open fireplaces. My grandmother still had a stove that was heated through a wood fire and I can remember her sitting in front of the opening patiently toasting bread for us with a very long pronged fork, carefully turning the piece of bread from one side to the other until it was just the right shade of brown.  Delicious to eat!! Building the fire was a very important part of having a successful source of heat and then keeping that small spark going, fanning it, was essential.

Paul uses this beautiful example of keeping something very important alive, when he writes to encourage Timothy and the young Christian church he is leading, not to neglect the gifts that God had given them, so they no longer shine brightly, and are available to use for God’s glory, but to keep fanning them so they become mighty flames able to accomplish what God has designed them to be.

There are many verses about gifts in Scripture, the most beautiful one being how God gave us his one an only Son to be our Saviour;

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 9: 15)

but Paul assures us in Corinthians that everyone of us has personal gifts, given to us by the Father;

“…But each man has his own gift from God, one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Corinthians 7: 7)

FanFlames02Some of us mistakenly believe God must have overlooked us when he was giving out the gifts, but that is not true, just as each person is unique, so are our gifts and discovering those gifts becomes easier and easier the longer we walk closely with the Holy Spirit. Some of what would be described as small gifts can bring about amazing results when they are used to display God’s love to others.

One gift often overlooked as a “gift”, is prayer. Jesus graciously opened the door to the Father’s ear, so we can talk directly to the Creator of the Universe. We can fan this gift into a mighty flame as we pray for others and bring about miraculous happenings with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Again, we can go to Paul to read how he encourages the young churches to look carefully at their gifts (1 Corinthians 12 is a great chapter to delve into for Spiritual gifts, but also important it is for us to be able to see that we are one body with different parts having different jobs, but all parts working together for the good of the whole body.)

So how do we accomplish fanning our gifts into flames? Using them is the simple answer!  When we realise people like to share their problems with us, we realise we are good listeners and can be invaluable helping others. Practice good listening skills! Somebody told me a great acronym W.A.I.T. to remember (Why Am I Talking). If others tell you, how positive you are, practice encouraging those who need a hand up. FanFlames03Probably the best way to discover our gifts is to ask the Lord to show us how he would like to use us. When we realise the gifts come from him and we don’t take the credit, our gifts truly will burst into flame and we will remember where the gifts come from;

 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1: 17)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 27, 2018

Be Where God Wants You To Be

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”

(Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 KJV)

BeWhereGodWantsYou01Recently I was with my family in the Food Court of a busy Mall when I had quite a nasty fall and as I did, a chair that was behind me crashed on to my head. I was stunned for a second and when I opened my eyes a man was kneeling beside me and in a very gentle voice was asking me questions, slowly and clearly, assuring me he was an off-duty fireman, trained as a first responder. His calm voice and confident manner calmed my anxious daughters and his wife handed my daughter a pack of Kleenex to stem the blood flowing from a cut on my head. This man’s confident handling of the whole situation was exactly what our whole family needed. That man was in the right place at the right time to use his skills to help another.

No broken bones, just a sore bump on the head was the good outcome

I was thinking back to the verse in Proverbs 3 which tells us to allow the Lord to direct our paths and I always thought that meant it was for BeWhereGodWantsYou03our benefit to help us make big decisions in life. My fall that day gave me a whole different perspective as to what the verse meant. Those who love the Lord need to ask the Lord to direct where they should be, so we can be his hands at a moment’s notice, to be used by the Holy Spirit to comfort, encourage perhaps even rescue someone in need.

We had a beautiful example of this in one of our church Bible studies, when one of the ladies shared, she suddenly felt the Lord was asking her to check on a friend who she knew had been depressed and when she went to the friend’s apartment, her friend had taken an overdose of her medication. The lady had been in the right place at the right time and was able to take her friend to the hospital and possibly saved her life.

When we are willing to be available for the Lord to use, we will be certainly in the right place, if we start the day concentrating upon what pleases us that day, we may miss the beautiful opportunity of being used as a vessel of the Holy Spirit.

BeWhereGodWantsYou02Ecclesiastes has a beautiful passage reminding us of the importance of being available for each other and when the director of operations is the Lord we will be truly blessed for being in the right place at the right time.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4: 9 – 11)

 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 13, 2018

Shattered Lives

“…I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow”

(Jeremiah 31: 13)

ShatteredLives01This horrific headline blazed forth from our morning newspaper, informing us of a terrible tragedy that had taken place between a bus load of young hockey players and a truck. The truck had slammed into the bus carrying the players to a hockey game on a country road in Saskatchewan in Canada. The radio confirmed the story with the frightful details that 15 were dead and the others taken to hospital, some with life threatening injuries. The enormity of grasping the grief, sorrow, pain of loved ones hearing this news, was overwhelming.

The big question when bad things like this happens is often,

Why did God let this happen to innocent young people?

I was so amazed and filled with compassion when a few days later the whole little town, where the hockey team came from, gathered together in the town’s hockey arena to join in comforting one another, and as we watched the televised version, we heard the powerful voice of a local minister tackle the big question with love and understanding. This is how he addressed it;

No! We don’t know why bad things happen,

but we know we have a God of all comfort

waiting on the sidelines to wrap his arms around us

and comfort us.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4)ShatteredLives03

Of course, there were tears in the audience and without minimizing the sorrow of those who had lost loved ones, every following speaker had the same powerful message of where and who to turn to when hearts have been broken. Even us viewing the television screen felt some of the horror lift as we too began to remember how God repeatedly spoke through his word to remind us of him standing by, always ready to envelope us with his all, encompassing love.

The Psalmists knew who to call upon when terrible things occur in our lives and in lives of others around us and this is the message of Psalm 119

“May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.” (Psalm 119: 76)

ShatteredLives04One of the powerful messages also heard in that gathering of the town drowning in grief, was to everybody listening. Nobody can struggle through this pain by themselves. Everybody involved needs to be surrounded by loving caring friends who can offer practical help, support, a shoulder to cry on.  When we read what Paul was saying to the Corinthians, we can see that those who have received comfort from God are the best helpers to pass on that comfort to others, sharing his love and compassion with those who are hurting. Then they will be able to hear the Lord say;

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God…” (Isaiah 40: 1)

 

Posted by: Jo | April 6, 2018

Not Counting The Cost

“A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor”

(Proverbs 22: 9)

Generosity03Some friends and I were discussing how some of our husbands seem to be oblivious to the cost of buying everyday necessities and my husband probably topped the list. Since retiring he frequently accompanies me while doing the weekly grocery shopping and when we reach the check out, I am surprised to see in my buggy, several items not on my list, and when I question him as to how expensive they were, he looks at me in bewilderment, as of course actually checking the labels to see the price had not even occurred to him.  At the same time, he is the most generous man I have ever come across, so I pay for his crazy shopping and hold my tongue. (Sometimes!)

There are some very interesting stories in Scripture about how people view generosity and one of the most beautiful stories is the gift given by Mary when she anoints Jesus’ feet with a very expensive oil, not even thinking about the enormous cost it would have been to buy.

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure lard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12: 3)

Generosity02Now not all those who were watching were impressed with her generosity and Judas Iscariot immediately began complaining about the waste of money, but as John tells us he had been helping himself from the common money bag.

“But one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” (John 12:4)

Mary’s gift of love, not counting the cost is a beautiful example for all of us to heed.

Not counting the cost is not always about money, sometimes we are asked to step into a situation that we know will have a certain cost, perhaps of our time, our talent our giving up of some pleasure we want to pursue. Volunteering in any capacity is one of those situations. Often when we hear of a need in our community, our first thoughts are about the cost for us, what will we have to give up responding to the need?  Do I want to become involved?  Will it tie me down?

The story that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, also illustrates what it costs to show the Lord’s love to others. The first person to see someone who had been robbed and beaten lying on the roadway, was a priest and yet he decided it would cost too much to get involved and ignored the injured man. The next passer by, a Levite, also decided, checking on someone was going to interfere with his day, and ignored the man. A Samaritan, who the Jews looked down upon, sees an opportunity, without thinking about himself, to give of his time and money to help the one in need. After Generosity01Jesus tells this story he asks his listeners as to which traveller was a neighbour to the one beset upon by the robbers and of course they must reply.

“The one who had mercy on him” (Luke 10: 37)

Following the Lord’s commands does require some cost to us, but the rewards of sharing his love with others is a closer walk with him

 

 

Posted by: Jo | April 2, 2018

A Message From God

“Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirits of his masters”

(Proverbs 25: 13)

Message01A few weeks ago, I had a refreshing of my spirit from a message from a faithful servant of the Lord.  Lots of much more talented writers than me have written about the discouragement, often referred to as, “writer’s block” that writers experience. Mine was even worse than just not being able to write on a subject, I began to doubt if I should be writing at all!  I felt I was failing the Lord somehow by not glorifying him through my weekly blog. I thought I should stop.

The message from God came in a beautiful, unexpected way. One of my readers, who I don’t know personally, only that she is a friend of one of my friends, contacted my friend to have lunch with her. This lady has experienced some deep sorrow in her life and my friend had forwarded one of my blogs to her. This sweet messenger wanted to thank me for the comfort of the words in the blog and sent home with my friend an exquisite orchid. When my friend delivered the orchid, I cried as I realised she was being used by the Lord to send me a message of “keep writing” I still look at the orchid in my living room and bless both the messengers and the Lord for sending it.

God’s word is often referred to as, the Message, and all those who have heard that beautiful message of love are commissioned to pass it on to others. The message is one of forgiveness, grace and mercy all bound together by love. Message02

In the book of Acts, we read of when the apostles were jailed by the Sadducees, an angel of the Lord frees them and tells them;

“But during the night and angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out, “Go stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” (Acts 5: 19 – 20)

Sometimes we are the recipient , as I was, for a message from the Lord, but often we are also called upon to be the messenger and it is important that we listen carefully when the Lord is prompting us to reach out to someone who is in desperate need to hear a word of encouragement, a refreshing of their spirit, a helping hand out of the pit of sorrow or despair, a hug of forgiveness.

One of my daughters was able to listen carefully to the Lord and pass on an uplifting message for my husband which he needed desperately during a medical crisis. When we immediately recognise a message is from God, the peace that passes all understanding floods our very being and her message brought us that peace.

It is an honour to be the Lord’s messenger and I love that old hymn that is a beautiful prayer asking God to consecrate our bodies for him to use and I particularly like this verse.

Take my voice and let me sing

Always only, for my King

Take my lips and let them be

Filled with messages from thee

Message03

 

 

 

Posted by: Jo | March 25, 2018

Promises! Promises!

“I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil”

(Psalm 119: 162)

Promises!

Promises01All of us mothers have heard many of them

  • I promise I will clean my room tomorrow
  • I promise I will never do that again
  • …many more

Others not so funny, when they are broken!

  • I promise I will love you forever
  • I promise to pay back every penny

We humans are quick to use that word without thinking of the real meaning hidden deep within it and too often promises that fail to come to fruition. Promise is one of the most significant words in Scripture. The mighty Creator chooses to speak to Abraham and make his first great promise to all mankind through him

“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants”.  And so for waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” (Hebrews 6: 13 – 15) 

Repeatedly through the Old Testament we read of God re-affirming his promise to the children of Israel and he formalises this promise in the form of a covenant. A covenant was a binding promise declared in front of witnesses between two parties both promising to uphold the words of the promise. God made some mighty Promises02covenants with some specific humans and then with all the children of Israel, but unfortunately, they blithely promised to keep their side, but failed miserably to follow through.

“When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice. “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” (Exodus 24: 3)

The Heavenly Father knew ahead of time that his children would fail him, but in his great and compassionate love he then provided his one and only son to keep our side of the covenant for us, at the cost of his son’s life. The writer of Hebrews reminds his readers and us of this amazing act of grace;

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant , that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9: 15)

Jesus himself demonstrates to the disciples at the last supper, what the cost will be for him to fulfill;

“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is pored out for you.” (Luke 22: 20)

Promises03As we approach, Easter, we can echo the words of John Newton’s beautiful hymn as we realise what amazing grace set us free

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

I once was blind, but now I see.

 

 

Posted by: Jo | March 9, 2018

Welcome to The Table

“And he took the bread and gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body, given for you, do this in remembrance of me”

(Luke 22: 19)

Meal01Our church is currently exploring the deeper meaning of the Communion service and what it means in our spiritual walk and how what Jesus is teaching us, can spill into our daily lives.

We have had a tradition of family meals together and both my husband’s family and mine loved entertaining friends, nothing can promote true friendship, love and understanding better than eating with others, and when we are capable, (being somewhat old now) we still love having friends for dinner.

Jesus chose the gathering of family at the Passover meal to demonstrate how he was about to fulfill this sacrifice once and for all, for those he loved, and shared it with his loving friends, his disciples.

Our sermon pointed out the number of times Jesus chose to eat with others and the number of stories involved some of the most unlikely guests. He was blessing the sharing of food with others as a wonderful practice for us to follow.

I decided to  check these out at home and I was surprised that such a basic human need such as eating was transformed by Jesus, lovingly showing us that he did not classify who was appropriate to eat with him, but opened his arms to include all walks of life and how he demonstrated this while he was on  earth by eating with rich Pharisees to despised tax collectors.

  • Loving friends, Martha and Mary (Luke 10: 38)
  • Simon the Leper (Matthew 26: 6)
  • Matthew (Levi) (Luke 5: 29)
  • Rich Pharisees (Luke 14:1)
  • Zacchaeus (Luke 19: 5)

Meal02And of course, with his disciples with whom he eats the last supper and gives us a beautiful example of how we can remember him.

The Old Testament has many messages about practising hospitality to visitors and strangers and welcoming others always involved offering food to them, so the message I received from our sermon was how important it is to eat with others, not only those friends we love chatting to, but the sad, the lonely, the outcasts, Paul entreats his listeners;

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12: 13)

Peter reminds the new church the importance of offering hospitality with love not resentment, not complaining about how much work is involved, but preparing the food with love.

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4: 9)

The other message I noted in our teaching was always remember, as we celebrate communion, the real host who is inviting us and welcoming us so lovingly to share a meal with him. A holy meal, to remind us of what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ for us to be able to come to his table.

Jesus has left us an example of true fellowship which we can lovingly incorporate into our lives, being aware of those who may need just that loving invitation to eat with someone filled with love and acceptance, and to welcome them to our table.

Meal03

Posted by: Jo | March 2, 2018

Someone With Skin On

“A friend loves at all times…”

(Proverbs 17: 17)

A friend repeated a sweet story that I have heard many times, but as it often happens, the story was Friend01very applicable for me to hear during a difficult week I was struggling through, in which I needed a friend to spend time with me, and when a friend appeared with listening ears, it made me think again how much we need each other and how important it is to be aware when someone we know is hurting or frightened, can be comforted just by us being with them

Here is the story. 

A little boy was being tucked into bed during quite a big storm. He was reluctant to let his mother leave and she assured him that Jesus loved him and would look after him. The little boy replied with a wail;

“I want somebody with skin on!”

We may smile at this story, but it has a great essence of truth in it.  Jesus repeatedly tells us to love one another and even though our friends know who Jesus is, having someone with skin on who can bring the warmth of his love with him is often just what they need.

God himself demonstrated this so beautifully when he made himself known to Moses and the meeting was described so clearly as a friend speaking face to face with a friend;

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend…” (Exodus 33: 11)

Friend02Proverbs has several verses about the importance of true friends and emphasises the joy of close friendship. When we follow Jesus and give our lives over to him, we become part of the family of God and our friendship for others becomes a deep and close relationship;

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18: 24)

Jesus himself is the perfect example of being a friend, and lovingly tells his disciples he calls them his friends, and explains he has demonstrated what true friendship is by exhibiting all that entails by showing what he has learnt from the Father;

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15: 15)

Friend03Not only does Jesus call us his friends he reminds us to stay close to him and remain in his love so that his joy will fill us and make us complete so when any frightened or troubled person needs comfort we can become that somebody with skin on, filled with his joy and love

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15: 11 – 12)

 

Posted by: Jo | February 23, 2018

Slow Down

“Be still, and know that I am God”

(Psalm 46:10)

BeStill06Being still is not something that is encouraged in today’s society, in fact the exact opposite is promoted. There is a frenzy among young people to keep moving at any cost, several of them wearing special bracelets to record how many steps they take every day and they seem to spend their waking hours constantly checking to see if they have accomplished the required steps! I was discussing this with one of my friends and she sent me a fascinating poem, written in the late 18th century by a W.H. Davies, called Stand and Stare. Here are a few lines from the poem

What is this life, if full of care

We have no time to stand and stare

No time to see when, woods we pass

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass

He points out all the beautiful parts of nature we miss by never slowing down to stop and stare and ends with this verse;

A poor life this if, full of care

We have no time to stand and stare.

BeStill07Of course, exercise is important, but if we become obsessed with it and have no time to be quiet and literally stop and stare, we may miss that small soft voice;

“Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30: 21)

Not only exercise can fill our days, countless activities, tight schedules, overworking, and with today’s youth, that ever-present smartphone in one’s hand, can take over the day.

Jesus certainly had a tight schedule and crowds were constantly following him to listen to his healing words, but he knew his human body needed a quiet time. He knew he needed rest and restoration, in John chapter 6, we read that after being constantly followed by crowds eager to hear his teaching, he realises a time of rest is needed.

“Then Jesus went up on a mountain side and sat down with his disciples.” (John 6: 3)

The following story is the famous one of the feeding of the five thousand and again Jesus realises that he needs to escape the crowds and this time he goes quietly to be by himself.

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6: 15)

BeStill08Sometimes even the needs of others can intrude upon our time of being still before the Lord and of course Jesus loved the crowds deeply, but he knew that resting would restore his human body to allow him to continue his teaching. We need to remember this in our own lives.

David sums up all these thoughts so beautifully in Psalm 23 when he realises that the Lord himself encourages us to rest and be restored

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want, he makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul…” (Psalm 23: 1 – 3)

Posted by: Jo | February 16, 2018

Life In His Name

“But these are written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”

(John 20: 31)

LifeInHisName01We are studying the gospel of John in our Women’s Bible study at our church and using an in-depth study guide to really absorb the wonderful truths found there. For our first study we were asked to learn the verse in Chapter 20 where John explicitly tells his readers and of course us, the whole purpose he had in writing down these words.  John 20: 31 tells us that life in Jesus’ name is what he wants us all to totally take to heart.

I was looking up a concordance for verses containing the word life and at first, I was amazed at the number of verses about life and then I went to the book of John to find there were over 30 verses! We obviously need to take note of that word in Scripture.

When God first chooses the children of Israel to be his chosen vessel to reveal to the rest of the world who he is, Moses, delivers a powerful speech to really emphasise the fact that they do have a choice to follow the Lord’s commandments or to basically choose not to, and face death,

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before your life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God listen to his voice and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your Life…” (Deuteronomy 30: 19 – 20) 

I read a quote some time ago about life which I thought came from Henry Thoreau, but I couldn’t trace it.  Here is the quote that I feel is very telling about our present generation

Most people are living quiet lives of desperation 

What a sad reflection in contrast to what our Saviour promises for those who would follow him; LifeInHisName02

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10: 10)

Today’s world would try to undermine the truth of that verse by selling the idea that life is in the individual’s hands and it is up to the effort one applies to living to how successful one is, implying that we are capable of creating our selves. We are offered various ways of doing this from exercise, meditation, mind games of all sorts with the over riding thought; You can make it! 

The gospel of John suggests the exact opposite! We are encouraged to believe in the beautiful promises of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, hand over ourselves to Him, give our worries and our burdens to him, allow Him to lead us, don’t struggle with life, allow Him to be our guide and then we will be able to have life in His name and have it to the full.

 

 

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